This week’s question, “How are you self-sufficient?” is in contrast to last Sunday’s “How do you depend on others?” What skills, knowledge, or talent allows you to work on your own?
It’s difficult to imagine many people being entirely self-sufficient. We rely on each other for so many things, not the least of which is basic human companionship.
However, it’s also true that some people are self-starters. They naturally find a motivation to do things, without others showing them how.
Alternately, some skills or hobbies allow for self-sufficiency. If you can knit, you can make your own clothes. If you garden, you can grow your food. Musicians or writers can create their own entertainment.
In what ways are you able to stand on your own? To not depend on others?
Related questions: How do you depend on others? What makes you you? How do you judge yourself? What’s the most useful thing you’ve ever learned? How are you special?
5 thoughts on “How Are You Self-Sufficient?”
In today’s complex and interconnected world, it’s difficult to say I’m fully self-sufficient in much, if anything. For example, I don’t produce much of the entertainment that occupies some of my time. Rebecca and I hire out most of the major repairs to our house. I don’t grow one year’s garden from seeds I harvested, dried, and saved from the previous year. I don’t make the clothes I wear. And, in my work-world, by necessity, I am reliant on others’ actions to help me advance the demands for justice I had the help of forming with community input as well as a team of other advocates and experts. These are just a handful of examples.
And so, I’m going to answer this question with a handful of examples assuming there are degrees toward self-sufficiency. In some of my roles and tasks, I am closer to self-sufficient than others:
• For about two months each year, a hefty portion of the food Rebecca and I eat is produced by the garden I tend and out of soil I helped build.
• That same garden I started and tend to gives me a place to seek calm when my Anxiety attacks while also helping entertain me and provide me with exercise.
• Regarding exercise, I’ve formed an hour-long workout program, which I do three to five times each week to maintain a certain degree of fitness. (I no longer go to a gym or belong to any fitness classes.)
• I write a lot, hopefully helping to keep my brain as sharp as it can be.
• I am (in no small degree) responsible for keeping myself educated on the issues related to my work-world — although colleagues’ emails certainly flood me plenty of great suggestions for what I should be paying attention to.
I could list other aspects of life for which I need to exercise some degree of self-sufficiency. But again, nearly everything in today’s world is reliant on societal inputs.
The answer for me is: I’m not. Not really.
Years ago, I went through a phase, one where I thought it would be cool to try and make all the food items that I use myself. I wouldn’t necessarily grow things, but I would use the raw ingredients to make everything. I’d churn my own butter, whip up my own mayonnaise, curdle my own cheese, brine my own pickles, etc.
It lasted about a week.
It’s really hard, and I believe we don’t fully appreciate just how many difficult things are made really easy in today’s society, from the food we eat, to travel, to accessing information.
I like the idea of being self-sufficient.
Ever since I was younger, I’ve thought about what would happen if I were thrown back in time a hundred thousand years. How much of modern society would I be able to recreate?
And I have friends that purposefully design their lives in a way to avoid relying on others — growing and canning their own food, living off the grid, cutting their own firewood, etc. I envy their lifestyle, but I can see just how hard it is.
While I love the idea, in a practical sense, I’m not self-sufficient at all. I’m all in on society (which doesn’t seem like such a good thing sometimes, particularly recently).
I’ve thought about this and decided that it is impossible to be self-sufficient even if you try. Even if you went out into the wilderness with nothing at all made by others, you would still be influenced by the knowledge and skills you have gained from others efforts. (And probably not likely to last very long. I think that is why civilizations came about). Still, we can have original thoughts and make use of those things in original ways. I think we can gain satisfaction from appreciating what others have contributed to make our lives better – food, knowledge, skills, money, entertainment, comforts, etc. Maybe realizing that how we creatively interact with the products of civilization can give more satisfaction that trying to be independent.
I’m going to answer one of the alternative questions, What’s the most useful thing you’ve ever learned?
In college I took Relaxation as one of my PE classes. Then, because of arthritis pain, I learned a bit of self-hypnosis for pain management. These are one of the most useful things I’ve ever learned, if not #1 on this list.
Deep relaxation moving into self-hypnosis allowed me to relax during and between contractions while in labor 35 years ago. This was a wonder! It also allows me to “numb” my arms up to my elbows while driving, reducing pain on long journeys. Deep Relaxation also allows me to fully relax for 20 – 30 minutes and have it seem as if I was sleeping for 2 – 4 hours. A great pick-me-up in the middle of the day. I used to do this during lunch time in a room where others were eating and talking and I wasn’t bothered by any of that. Like magic, it is.
I grow and preserve a lot of what my family eats and about half of my garden is grown from seeds I have saved. We use wood from trees cut, chopped and stacked by my husband to heat our home. Yet, we rely on others for clothing, electricity, information and a good portion of our food.
I don’t believe self sufficiency is possible, at least not without a huge amount of sacrifice that would be detrimental to the wellbeing of the individual.
Community sufficiency, where individuals rely on local businesses, farmers and the skills of their neighbors, and contribute their own skills, is possible, though things would still have to be given up to be truly communally sufficient.